The Day My Life Changed Forever – Benjamin Sledge
Gym Husband is a term for men who exclusively work out together and form a bond over exercise. Most times, gym husbands are around the same age and have similar strength. My gym husband, however, is a 24-year-old athlete who ran decathlon for Louisville. In contrast, I’m former military and enjoy heavy weight and borderline exercise torture. Because of our age gap and athletic backgrounds, one of my favorite pastimes is to pull the same crap all older people do and raise hell about how we “had to walk ten miles in the snow” back in our day. One of my favorite topics to chastise him for is his age at the time of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was six and his memories of the event are fuzzy, whereas I was twenty and my flashbacks remain vivid.
Prior to September 11th, I was on a delayed entry program having already completed Basic Training at Ft. Benning’s School of Infantry. With my year long hiatus, I began attending college at Oklahoma State University to knock out core education requisites. The goal was to become a military officer and have the Army pay for my education. If your parents are Baby Boomers, they can probably tell you what they were doing when JFK was shot. If you’re my age, you can remember where you were when the attacks happened on 9/11. I was in college and sleeping off a hangover, trying to ignore repeated calls to my cell phone.
Once I answered, the voice on the other end had a frantic exasperation that drug me out of my slumber. “Benjamin! Turn on the TV! Turn it on now!” Recognizing the familiar voice, I kept my eyes shut and waved my hand in the air to dismiss my mother, though she couldn’t see the gesture.
“Mommmmmm,” I moaned. “It’s eight in the morning. What do you want?” My mother spoke with more force rambling about some plane, New York, and possible attacks. I climbed out of my loft while my roommate requested I politely, “shut the fuck up.” I waved a dismissive arm at him too, then turned on the TV. The image that appeared was of smoke pluming out of the side of World Trade Center’s North Tower and speculative headlines.
“Could have been pilot error, Mom. There are a ton of airports around NYC.” As I finished my sentence, another plane crept onto the edge of the screen and then slammed straight into the other tower, exploding in an orange ball of fire.
There’s a scene in the M. Night Shyamalan movie, Signs, where Joaquin Phoenix’s character leans in toward his television to glimpse an alien. When the news channel finally freeze frames the shot, he loses his mind. My reaction to the tower exploding was oddly on par. I watched a few more minutes in silence while my roommate crept down to ask what was happening. “I’ll have to call you back, Mom.” Then I hung up and ran down the hallway screaming for everyone to wake up and turn on the news.